The University of Sheffield brings wildflower meadows to urban roundabouts

Roundabouts to bloom in meadow initiative
Roundabouts to bloom in meadow initiative

Motorists in seven UK cities can expect more pleasant journeys, thanks to work to be carried out by the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape, in partnership with Pictorial Meadows and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Professor Nigel Dunnett, director of external engagement and impact, will lead the transformation of seven roundabouts into sustainable wildflower meadows, which as well as adding a splash of colour to urban spaces, will improve conditions for bees and other pollinating insects.

The £130,000 project will revamp roundabouts in busy parts of Glasgow, Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham, Swindon, Liverpool and Woking. The seven sites were handpicked by local authorities for their proximity to major arterial roads, in a bid to maximise their impact on local communities. The initiative celebrates Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s 20 years of business in the UK.

Each meadow has been designed by Nigel, following a 12-month consultation with Enterprise and local authorities around the country. Urban meadows specialist company Pictorial Meadows will lead the planting phase of the project.

‘Wildflower meadows are now very popular in urban areas but what we are doing is a different story altogether,’ Nigel explains. ‘We’re creating very dynamic and dramatic plantings that combine a whole range of different techniques, to create visually spectacular effects. We’re taking the meadow look, and extending it in ways that have never been applied at this scale before, or in this range of locations. I commend Enterprise for taking a long-term view on their birthday initiative and for funding this programme. It provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the impact that colourful naturalistic plantings can have on urban locations, both ecologically and environmentally.’

The Enterprise roundabout project will combine a range of techniques and methods to achieve striking transformations. Robust perennial plants, vigorous shrubs and colourful bulbs are combined with seed mixes of colourful annuals and perennials, specially selected for the climate and growing conditions prevalent in each location. A special innovation is the cultivation of two acres of assorted ‘pre-grown’ meadow mats at a site in Lincolnshire to provide sufficient meadow for the Enterprise project. The mats are cultivated off-site to allow for intensive irrigation essential to ensuring the young plants establish a strong root base.

Following careful preparation of the ground, the plants, seeds and meadow mats will be put in place the autumn of 2015.

Sue France, director of Pictorial Meadows says: ‘With so many priorities it is very hard for local authorities to allocate funds to new landscape initiatives that aren’t sustainable and which don’t have local social and environmental impact. This project is an example of public, private and third sectors working together to achieve something that will make a long-term difference. We know many local authorities are seeing this as a pathfinder project that will enable other more long-term planting schemes in the future.’

The seven sites to be transformed are: Sherlock Street roundabout, Birmingham; Drumry Road roundabout, Glasgow; Middleton roundabout, Leeds; East Prescott Road roundabout, Liverpool; Park Square roundabout, Sheffield; Elgin Drive and Kembrey Park roundabouts, Swindon; and Robin Hood Road roundabout, Woking.


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